Something Wicked This Way Comes

Ray Bradbury
Something Wicked This Way Comes Cover

Gorgeous prose, autumn theme


"He stared at fathoms of reflections. You could never strike bottom there. It was like winter standing tall, waiting to kill you with a glance" (p. 62).

"Stay away from the maze where winter slept" (p. 122).

Has anyone ever finished a mirror maze? I have not. Not out of some existential fear like Bradbury suggests. Just the fear of banging my nose on a pane of bendy glass is enough to prevent me from venturing further than a few feet inside, arms outstretched, before I back up and scurry out the entrance. And, yes, I've had to be rescued at least once.

Something Wicked This Way Comes is a mirror maze of another kind, the existential kind, although it's accompanied by some of the same appeal and angst. It recollects our pasts, that famous Bradburian nostalgia, and we see ourselves and our loved ones in his contemplative meditations. Like a warped mirror, Bradbury amplifies, intensifies, stretches, augments, and he stuffs the extra spaces with tenderly poignant musings. I get a pang in my gut when I read his prose, it's so excruciatingly true and beautiful. Some people have physical reactions to art. I have a physical reaction when I read stuff like this.

But this is about Halloween. Not about my sensitivity to distinctive metaphors. (But he compares the mother's optimism to fresh milk! *swoon*)

Here's something scary...

"The Witch who might draw skulls and bones in the dust, then sneeze it away..."

"... so she could feel their souls disinhibit, reinhabit their tremulous nostrils. Each soul, a vast warm fingerprint, felt different, she could roil it in her hand like clay; smelled different, Will could hear her snuffing his life away; tasteddifferent, she savored them with her raw-gummed mouth, her puff-adder tongue; sounded different, she stuffed their souls in one ear, tissued them out the other!" (p. 143).

"Fingerprint souls she roils like clay," "puff-adder tongue," "tissued them out the other..." most writers just don't write like this. Maybe we should encourage our young writers to skip college and live at the library.

I feel bad for the Witch, though. Bradbury's women lack the depth of his male characters, but the horror of this poor wretch is simply her existence. Eyes sewn shut with black widow silk, she's the bloodhound for her carnival boss. She never turns on her manipulator (like we hope), and then he sells her out in the end, to protect his own hide. She's not scary. Her existence is scary. Someone connect her with a social worker, stat!

But if you're only going to develop your male characters, you can bet I will still find a way to edge myself into your book. I'm Will, by the way...

"The trouble with Jim was he looked at the world and could not look away. And when you never look away all your life, by the time you are thirteen you have done twenty years taking in the laundry of the world..."

"Will Halloway, it was in him young to always look just beyond, over or to one side. So at thirteen he had saved up only six years of staring" (p. 39).

But the scariest part of all is that this isn't a book about boys, or carnivals, or autumn, or witches. It's about aging. It's about Will's dad, really...

"For being good is a fearful occupation; men strain at it and sometimes break in two" (p. 135).

"... and me on the roof using books for shingles, comparing life to libraries... I'd be a fool not to know I'm a fool" (p. 136).

"Hit an old man with mirrors, watch his pieces fall in jigsaws of ice only the carnival can put together again" (p. 205).

So, of course, I hope you have a [happy] [spooky] [hallowed] [lovely] Halloween. And, of course, "beware the autumn people," to whom I will be doling out overpriced candy when they pull up to my house in their golf carts, (because that's how we do in Arrakis, Texas) during which time I might be "holding a book but reading the empty spaces" (p. 34).

"An autumn leaf, very crisp, fell somewhere in the dark. But it was only the page of a book, turning" (p. 184).

In reality, it will be the screen of an ereader, clicking, like the still-green branch of turk's cap bush against the window. Green, because autumn in Texas ain't a real thang.

(And that book is The Peripheral. holla.)